December 29, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Another Christmas alone. 

I had hoped that this year would be different. I had prayed that this would be Christmas she would come home; just like i had prayed for the same thing last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Fate mocks me. God despises my pleas and relegates my desires to the bottom of His priorities.

The househelp left for home yesterday; the cook, the day before that. All that remains of the retinue of people i surround myself with is Sanusi, my mai-guard. For him, the journey to Niger, the country he calls home is better dreamed of than realized. Yet even he has retired early tonight. He failed to show up for our nightly chat in the garden. I do not blame him. My heaviness weighs everyone around me down.

Ibidun, we had named her for her birth was sweet and an answer to prayer. We had loved her and done our best as parents. Somewhere along the line, she had decided all our love was not enough and she had gone in search for more. She left when she was 22 and has since returned only once, to her mother's death bed and to say goodbye to the woman that gave her life.

"'Brooding again, I see"
I look up to find the ghost of my wife adjusting her head tie as she makes for the seat beside me. 
I smile and the ghost smiled back. She only visits at Christmas. She looks exactly like the day we met.

"You look lovely as usual" I tell her. "Did you tie the gele all by yourself" I ask knowing fully well that the woman I married couldn't tie a gele to save her life.

"Flattery will get you nowhere and neither will mocking my head tying skills! Don't change the subject. We are talking about you" She answers.
My wife's ghost is no ordinary one. It is the very essence of her, witty, smart and beautiful. I have asked her on previous visits what exactly she is; spirit, ghost, lost soul??? She always shrugs and changes the subject.

I look at the half filled glass of cognac sitting on the table, untouched since I poured it and I ask the ghost, ''Do you ever wonder, Fadeke, if we somehow failed Ibidun? Do you think it is possible we didn't try hard enough or maybe we tried too hard?"

"This is getting old Bamtefa. You ask me the same thing every year. Can't you make these encounters a little more interesting? I am the dead one here meaning i am the only one allowed to be boring." The ghost of my wife pouts.

She sighs and continues "For a long time, I wondered too. If Ibidun turning out the way she did was because I didn't love her enough or in the right way but I never wondered, not even for a second, if it had anything to do with your love for her. Any fool could see you meant business when it came to loving that child. We didn't fail Ibidun. She failed us. Stop torturing yourself, Bamtefa. Some children need to go wrong to find the right in their lives." 

She adjusts her headtie again. It is all I can do not to reach for her but I know from past experience that i will only be grasping for air. I have often wondered if this seasonal apparition is nothing but a figment of my imagination.  It would only be fitting that my mind conjures the person I love most in world when memories are all that attend me.

"And no, I am not your imagination" She says reading my mind. "Just to prove it, I will drink your cognac." She says mischievously. She gulps it all down in one drink and I laugh as she grimaces from the taste.

"A ghost that can drink" I say. "You are definitely not a figment of my imagination."

"Remember how we both loved Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and how we read it to Ibidun every Christmas?" The ghost asks and I nod in reply.  
"Sometimes I feel like it’s our preoccupation with this season that brings me back here every holiday. Think of how the things that gave us the most joy happened around this time. Our wedding, Ibidun's birth... I have become one of my best loved characters in a book-The Ghost of Christmas Past and you are Ebenezer Scrooge."

"Hahaha! Very funny, Fadeke. I am not a scrooge and you know it" I say in defense.

"At the rate you are going it’s just a matter of time." She snickers in reply "Sitting here and grieving for a past you can't do anything about will turn you into an old sour man in the nearest future. I had a good life and your grieving for me for so long is so unfair. I remember how your laughter used to resound through the house and make me feel safe. It makes me so sad to think it was my leaving that took away your laughter."

 She is right, I know but it is so hard.

"You have got to try, Bamtefa. There is so much to live for and to look forward to than errant children coming home for the holidays. Come to think of it, you have new neighbors. Have you been over to say hello?" The ghost asks with a wink.

"I was waiting for you to get to that” I say smiling. 'I am too old to go knocking on neighbors' doors especially when they are widowed and pretty"

"Ah ha! I knew it! You still have a good eye for pretty women!" Fadeke's ghost exclaims.

This time, I laugh the resounding laughter and the ghost laughs with me. I wonder what Sanusi will think of his boss laughing aloud in an empty house. 

I wipe off the tears that accompanied the laughter and I tell the ghost how much i miss her.

"I miss you too. Oh look at the time! It’s time for the carols and the angels will not find it funny if i am late. Merry Christmas, Bamtefa. Hopefully we won't have to do this next Christmas."
I smile again and watch her disappear. I wonder what the angels will say to a heavenly chorister with alcohol on her breath. I look at my watch and it is almost 12am, Christmas day.  

I drink my half-filled cup of Cognac and make a note to myself to take my new neighbor some of the spiced chicken my cook made for Christmas.
I wrap my daughter's gift and place it under the Christmas tree, next to the unopened gifts for two Christmasespast. Who knows, maybe this will be the gift that has its day in the sun. For now, it’s time to dwell a little more on ghosts and their recommendations.

Merry Christmas People. Jesus, the reason for the season.

Song of the day: Asa- Eye Adaba

December 20, 2011

Thankfully, Kiah

Lately i have done nothing but moan!

And groan, gripe and complain. I cannot seem to find any reason to be thankful. Ok that is not true. I do see reasons to be thankful but i think i am forgetting how to be thankful.(Heaven forbid)

And somehow i stumbled on this

I am still the same girl that wrote that. Yes it has been a year but look how far i have come and all the wonderful gifts i got on a platter of GRACE in 2011. Right now, i am feeling like the ungrateful heel that i am. 

Today, i am especially thankful for my amazing friend and fellow blogger SN. Its his birthday and like December, he shines.
I am thankful for life, Jesus, my family, friends, school, my unborn children (all 4 of them), my soon to be husband (faith people, faith!), my career, my ability to put words together and weave tales, my amazing hair that has weathered Virginia's winter beautifully :), my pink nail polish, music, books, my bags that are packed and ready to flee this town, my Gucci by Gucci perfume bottle that is somehow still full, good health, my country, my dry flaky skin that hasn't weathered winter as beautifully as my hair, hope for tomorrow....etcetra, etcetra...

Heavenly Father, for everything,  Imela!!!

Song of the day: Tye Tribbett- Bless the Lord (Son of Man)

December 2, 2011

Blood on my hands

The blood would not stop flowing. It had been 3 days. Nsa and Wonuoma had promised me 3 days at most. Well, Nsa had initially said 2 days but Wonuoma had retorted that Nsa was a sickler so her experience did not matter. How much blood could she afford to give away monthly anyway? Three days was what normal women had, no more, no less, Wonuma had said with a finality that brooked no argument. Nsa had turned red and her pale eyes had become paler and i worried she would faint like she so often did.

Nsa was the prettiest of us best friends. She was also going to be the first to die. Everyone said sicklers never lived past a certain age. My mother said we were unchristian children not to believe in the power of God to heal Nsa. I believed but i also knew that some things had to die to give way to better things. Nsa would die and something even more beautiful would take her place. I and Wonuoma waited with bated breath for our friend's rebirth.
In the mean while, Wonuoma had the final say on most things and the length of my monthly cycle was not going to be any different.

I woke up early on the morning of the fourth day and checked the white pads of tissue paper my friends had lovingly made for me. They had made 9 pads, 3 for each day. Something was definitely wrong. I began to cry silently and pray to my mother's God to take this thing away. This thing that Wonuoma said marked my entry into womanhood. This thing that Nsa said was the determinant of if i grew any breasts at all. This thing that both my friends agreed were my unborn children who had died because i did not have a father for them yet.

I wept in sorrow for my unborn babies. I cried for the essence of childhood that flowed ceaselessly away. I was so involved in my weeping that i failed to notice the shadow that stood above me till it called out to me.

"Nneoma!!!" I looked up from where i sat in despair on my raffia mat.
"What is it biko? Why are you crying this early in the morning? Did you have a bad dream? Did you fight with Wonu or Nsa?"
I nodded in negative to my mother's barrage of questions.
"Then what is it? Talk to me biko!" My mother pleaded as she joined me on the raffia mat.
The thing with my mother was she never stopped to breathe. Whether in loving or in scolding, Mama had no breaks.

"Tell me what is wrong before you give me high blood pressure , you this child" My mother asked again. This time her voice was raised higher than before.

"The blood won't stop Mama!" I answered my mother.
"Blood? What blood?" My mother asked looking up, down, left and right.
I sighed in exasperation. Sometimes my mother amazed me with her cluelessness. I stood up to show her my stained night gown.

"Nneoma!" My mother called in a hushed whisper. "You have started! When? How?" She asked as she pulled me towards her in a warm embrace that felt more congratulatory than comforting. The hug ignited a fresh round of my tears. Through the sobs, i managed to ask her if i was bleeding to death as Wonuoma had said anything over 3 days meant death.

"Chei! Wonuoma of the big mouth and empty head" Mama said, not unkindly. She loved Wonuoma almost as much as she loved me. Only Wonu could get away with cradling my mother's bosom and telling her it was the best pillow ever.

"Never you mind Wonu and her tall tales. Every woman has a different cycle just as we are all born at different times. There is nothing the matter with you Nnem. You are beautiful, perfect and a woman. Soon i will carry your children on my back but not too soon oh.  For now stay away from boys and men because some men can get you pregnant even by looking at you"
We laughed together at that and talked long into the new day till i was late for school and my mother, for work.

My friends showed up in the evening and Wonuoma's ears got a twisting from my mother for her tall tales. I sat with Nsa and laughed while my mother and my friend teased each other. I looked at Nsa and pleaded with my mother's God for her not to die. Nothing could ever take her place. I didn't mind the death of my unborn children. The ones that were meant to be born would be born but Nsa was here already. I had got to hold her, to laugh with her, to defend her, to watch her pale face flush with joy and laughter, to love her translucent skin that looked like a new born baby's...
There and then, under the watchful gaze of the moon; while my father drank palm wine and my brothers played noisily; with my mother's and friends' laughter cheering me on, i made my transition from careless childhood to nurturing womanhood.There and then, i decided my best friend would not die. I had enough blood on my hands as it were.

P.s Most people ask why most my stories are set around Igbo characters...especially as i am a Yoruba girl who has lived 90% of her life in Lagos...
I have Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Elechi Amadi, Buchi Emecheta, Chimamanda Adichie and countless other amazing writers of Igbo origin to thank for that. Their stories, their dedication to creating a better reality through fiction...these are some of the reasons i am proud to be called a Nigerian and not just a Yoruba girl.
Song of the day: Amy Winehouse: Tears dry on their own